Traffic, formed in 1967, remains one of the most iconic bands of British psychedelic and progressive rock. Led by Steve Winwood, a former member of the Spencer Davis Group, the Band shone with its blend of rock, jazz and folk, creating music that was both experimental and accessible.
Their story began in the English countryside, at ‘The Cottage', a house where the band lived and created together, far from the hustle and bustle of London. This bucolic atmosphere greatly influenced their first album, ‘Mr. Fantasy' (1967), which blends rock, jazz and elements of Indian music. Winwood says of this period: “It was an incredible experience. The music flowed naturally because we lived so far away from everything.”
Traffic went through several line-up changes, including Winwood's temporary departure to form Blind Faith with Eric Clapton. Nevertheless, the band reformed in 1970 to produce ‘John Barleycorn Must Die', an album that marked their creative peak. The title track, a reinterpretation of a traditional English folk ballad, became one of their most recognised works.
The band were known for their energetic, improvised live performances. One famous anecdote recounts how, during a concert, Winwood improvised an entire Song on stage, leaving the audience and his own band members stunned by his spontaneous talent.
Traffic was also noted for his refusal to follow commercial trends. Winwood once said: “Our music wasn't made for the charts. We wanted to explore, not repeat formulas.”
The band finally disbanded in 1974, but their legacy lives on. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, in recognition of their significant influence on the world of rock music.
The Traffic album
Traffic, in their eponymous album released in 1968, encapsulated the essence of the late 60s, fusing rock, jazz and folk in a psychedelic and experimental mix. This album, the band's second after “Mr. Fantasy”, testifies to Traffic's artistic evolution and their desire to push back musical boundaries.
The band experimented with various instruments and production techniques, seeking to capture an organic and spontaneous sound. During the recording of ‘Feel Flows', Winwood and Capaldi improvised the song in a single take, capturing a raw magic rarely achieved in the studio.
The track ‘40,000 Headmen', with its surreal lyrics and captivating melody, illustrates the band's ability to create stories rich in imagery and emotion. During the recording, the band used a variety of unconventional instruments, including exotic flutes and percussion, to create a unique soundscape.
Another remarkable track, ‘Pearly Queen', demonstrates Winwood's mastery as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. Legend has it that the song was recorded in near total darkness to encourage total immersion in the music, an unorthodox but effective technique.
Traffic also recorded ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy' during these sessions, but the song was not included until later in the reissue of the album. The track, with its poignant call for an imaginary musician to “play a song” to lift the spirits of listeners, has become a Traffic concert staple and fan favourite.
The song You Can All Join In
Written by Dave Mason, this song is characterised by its joyful simplicity and its call for unity, reflecting the idealism and community spirit of the hippie movement.
The lyrics of “You Can All Join In” are an invitation to celebrate together, regardless of differences. With lines like “Just grab a guitar and lead the way”, Mason encourages spontaneity and freedom of expression, suggesting that music is a universal language that can bring people together. This song is a perfect example of Traffic's ability to create songs that, while simple on the surface, carry universal depth and meaning.
Musically, “You Can All Join In” is remarkable for its bright and catchy arrangement. Mason's acoustic guitar, accompanied by Steve Winwood's subtle organ playing, creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The rhythm section, provided by Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood, adds a light touch that makes the song irresistibly danceable.
The impact of “You Can All Join In” goes beyond the musical sphere. The song has become an anthem for a generation in search of meaning and connection. It was widely adopted by the hippie scene, symbolising the utopia of a more open and inclusive society. Its cover, showing the band and their friends gathered together, visually embodied this message of unity and sharing.
Where to listen to Traffic?
- Listen to Traffic on Spotify
- Listen to Traffic on Deezer
- Listen to Traffic on Youtube
Useful links for Traffic
- Site official the Steve Winwood
- Jim Capaldi official website
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